A lack of women candidates and large district finalists concerned Shawnee Mission School District parents who listened in Saturday during a marathon session of interviews for a new superintendent.
After an eventful year following the unexpected resignation of former Superintendent Jim Hinson, many in the district were hoping for a new leader who would help heal the district.
"I want someone with a boots-on-the-ground mentality,” says Liz Meitl, a parent of two children at Briarwood Elementary, “who will listen and find ways to engage all kinds of parents, not just parents who are naturally involved.”
The three finalists are Michael Fulton, superintendent for the Pattonville School District near St. Louis, Missouri; Blane McCann, superintendent of Westside Community Schools in Omaha, Nebraska; and Michael Muñoz, superintendent of Rochester Public Schools in Rochester, Minnesota.
During a meet-and-greet at the Center for Academic Achievement, each finalist took questions ranging from growing concerns about mental health and transparency and trust between the administration, teachers and parents, recently a contentious issue for the district.
After hearing all candidates speak about improving communication, with a focus on listening, Meitl says she feels hopeful.
"The message has reached the right ears and that's what we want," Meitl says.
After Hinson’s resignation, his deputy, Kenny Southwick, was elected to fill in as interim superintendent while the board searched for a new district leader.
In November, three reform candidates were elected to the Shawnee Mission Board of Education, ousting three veteran board members in a move expected to shake things up for the district.
After Saturday’s meeting, the Shawnee Mission Board of Education interviewed each finalist in a second round of closed-door sessions. The board hopes to select a new superintendent by the end of March.
Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.